Friday, August 25, 2017

DNA detectives crack the case on biothreat look-alikes

Principal investigator Jean Challacombe (left) assisted by Cheryl Gleasner. LANL photo.

Biological "detectives" are tracking down biothreats such as the bacteria that causes tularemia ("rabbit fever"), but they constantly face the challenge of avoiding false positives. Sounding the alarm over a bioattack, only to find it's a harmless relative in the same genus, reduces credibility and public trust. New work at Los Alamos National Laboratory is narrowing down the confusion over Francisella bacteria, a few species of which include highly virulent human and animal pathogens, fish pathogens, opportunistic human pathogens, tick endosymbionts, and free-living isolates inhabiting brackish water.   (Full Story)

LANL scientist testing bacteria to stop diseases

Pebble Labs in Los Alamos use fluorescence from jellyfish and UV light to view bacteria, Journal photo.   

A Los Alamos scientist is assembling a growing team of international experts to test his biotechnology for attacking vector-borne diseases.

Richard Sayre, a top-level senior research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is also chief scientific officer of Pebble Labs Inc., which he helped create last year along with investors interested in his ideas for preventing the spread of viral diseases like Zika that live in mosquitoes – and doing so without killing off the bug. (Full Story)

Also from the Journal this week

Descartes gets $30 million in financing

Journal photo.

Los Alamos-based startup Descartes Labs Inc. has received $30 million in financing, the company announced today.

The Series B round of funding is led by March Capital, a Los Angeles-based venture capital fund, the company announced today.

Descartes, which launched in 2015, has been growing quickly with advanced image-recognition software from Los Alamos National Laboratory that allows industry, government and academic researchers to rapidly analyze global trends in almost any field using satellite imagery. (Full Story)

Medical imaging research leader selected for high honor by SPIE

Ken Hanson.         

Ken Hanson, a medical imaging research scientist at Los Alamos National Lab, has been selected as this year’s recipient of a top award from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

Hanson is receiving the 2017 SPIE Directors’ Award in recognition of substantial contributions to the long-running SPIE Medical Imaging symposium and of advances in medical image quality, restoration and 3D reconstruction techniques. (Full Story)

NM college lands funding to launch high-growth tech field program

Jorge Crichigno, chair of the Northern New Mexico College's College of Engineering and Technology.

The College of Engineering and Technology at Northern New Mexico College in EspaƱola has been awarded a nearly $434,000 grant from the National Science Foundation so it can launch a cybersecurity concentration under its Information Engineering Technology bachelor's degree program.

Collaborators include Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, the Western Academy Support and Training Center in California and the Network Development Group in North Carolina. (Full Story)

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Neutron beams, x-rays reveal more about T. rex relative

A 3D scan of Bistahieversor sealeyi, aka the Bisti
Beast. LANL image.

Researchers at a top U.S. laboratory announced Tuesday that they have produced the highest resolution scan ever done of the inner workings of a fossilized tyrannosaur skull using neutron beams and high-energy X-rays, resulting in new clues that could help paleontologists piece together the evolutionary puzzle of the monstrous T. rex.

Officials with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science said they were able to peer deep into the skull of a “Bisti Beast,” a T. rex relative that lived millions of years ago in what is now northwestern New Mexico. (Full story)

‘Bisti Beast’ gets his head examined

Sven Vogel, staff scientist at Los Alamos National
Laboratory with a video of an X-ray scan of the fossil
skull, Journal photo.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory recently conducted a neutron imaging scan to expose the inner structures of the skull from the tyrannosaur dinosaur nicknamed Bisti Beast.

“Normally, we look at a variety of thick, dense objects at Los Alamos for defense programs, but the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science was interested in imaging a very large fossil to learn about what’s inside,” said Ron Nelson, of the laboratory’s Experimental Physical Sciences Division. (Full story)

Also on YouTube

Muons in the cathedral

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore,
in Florence Italy.  From the New Mexican.

In 2013, a group of experts on the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore came to Los Alamos National Laboratory to consult about fixing the dome’s cracks. That conversation led to bringing in muon-imaging technology as a tool to study the problem. Muon-imaging technology was developed for national security purposes, such as searching cargo shipments for nuclear materials — not quite cathedrals. As such, it would have to be adapted to prove useful in this unique architectural setting. (Full story)

Researchers may have just discovered an entirely new state of matter

Filip Ronning, LANL photo.

In a new study published in Nature, researchers lead by a team from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) reveal that they may have discovered a new state of matter.

At the core of this research is CeRhIn5, a heavy-fermion superconductor. When the researchers placed CeRhIn5 within a high magnetic field, its electronic symmetry broke and the compound went into an electronic nematic state. (Full story)

An exascale timeline for storage and I/O systems

In large-scale supercomputing, many performance trends have jacked up capability and capacity—but the bottlenecks have not changed since the dawn of computing as we know it. Memory latency and memory bandwidth remain the gating factors to how fast, efficiently, and reliably big sites can run—and there is still nothing that will tip that scale significantly on the horizon, says Gary Grider, deputy division leader for HPC and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

On the cutting edge of chemistry

Newly minted Ph.D. in chemistry
Cory Windorff, UCI photo.

UCI graduate student Cory Windorff could have studied abroad for a year in Bangkok, Barcelona or Buenos Aires. Instead, he chose an austere outpost at the Los Alamos National Laboratory near Santa Fe, New Mexico. What the location lacked in culture and amenities, it more than made up for in historical significance, and it allowed the young researcher to play a central role in a groundbreaking scientific discovery.

In 2015, Windorff went to Los Alamos with the support of UCI and a Science Graduate Student Research Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Energy. While there, he served as a key member of a team of chemists that uncovered a previously unknown oxidation state of plutonium, the highly radioactive, synthetic element used in nuclear power plants and weaponry. (Full story)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Forecasting Outbreaks—1 Image at a Time

An image from a Landsat satellite of Brazil, where the Amazon flows into the Rio Negro and Solimoes River.
Credit: Descartes Labs

Public health is like your plumbing—you don’t notice it until it’s broken. And when those safeguards and policies put in place to keep our communities healthy and strong are broken, the results can be devastating.

Take, for example, Haiti in 2010. Ten months after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, a cholera outbreak spread throughout the country. By the end of 2011, more than 500,000 people had been infected and 7,000 were dead from the disease. In west Africa the Ebola virus killed more than 11,000 people from 2014 to 2016. (Full story)

Scientists probe the conditions of stellar interiors to measure nuclear reactions

For the first time, scientists have conducted thermonuclear
measurements of nuclear reaction cross-sections
under extreme conditions like those of stellar interiors.
Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

In a unique cross-disciplinary collaboration between the fields of plasma physics, nuclear astrophysics and laser fusion, a team of researchers including scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Ohio University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), describe experiments performed in conditions like those of stellar interiors. The team's findings were published today by Nature Physics.

The experiments are the first thermonuclear measurements of nuclear reaction cross-sections - a quantity that describes the probability that reactants will undergo a fusion reaction - in high-energy-density plasma conditions that are equivalent to the burning cores of giant stars, i.e. 10-40 times more massive than the sun. These extreme plasma conditions boast hydrogen-isotope densities compressed by a factor of a thousand to near that of solid lead and temperatures heated to ~50 million Kelvin. These also are the conditions in stars that lead to supernovae, the most massive explosions in the universe. (Full story)

Biosurveillance Integration: Coverage from the Biodefense World Summit

Alina Deshpande, PhD, from Los Alamos National Laboratory spoke about “Tools and Apps to Enhance Situational Awareness for Global Disease Surveillance.” This was particularly interesting as right away I was curious what exactly “situational awareness” meant in this situation. Drawing on a classic definition that included the perception of the elements in one’s environment within a given time and space, Dr. Deshpande’s talk centered around the analytics used for investigating a disease outbreak, specifically how one might contextualize the outbreak.

She remarked on how there are two functionalities at play during an outbreak: understanding the unfolding outbreak and learning about representative global historical outbreaks. These two components aid in short-term forecasting and help provide structure as an outbreak begins to unfold. (Full story)

LANL Foundation Awards $61,298 In Education and Community Grants

The LANL Foundation awarded 26 grants totaling $61,298 to support education and community programs in Northern New Mexico during the second-quarter grantmaking period.

Sixteen programs received $37,000 in Education Outreach funding that directly supports kindergarten through 12th grade public school children. An additional 10 Community Outreach Grants totaling $23,798 were awarded to programs aligned with the LANL Foundation’s mission and vision of innovative programming, collaboration, and advocacy for lifelong learning but are not directly tied to kindergarten through 12th grade public education. Early childhood, adult learning, or community events are a few focus areas that fall under this category. (Full story)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Study reveals exactly how low-cost fuel cell catalysts work

Los Alamos National Laboratory's Piotr Zelenay,
Ted Holby and Hoon Chung. LANL photo.

In order to reduce the cost of next-generation polymer electrolyte fuel cells for vehicles, researchers have been developing alternatives to the prohibitively expensive platinum and platinum-group metal (PGM) catalysts currently used in fuel cell electrodes. New work at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge national laboratories is resolving difficult fuel-cell performance questions, both in determining efficient new materials and understanding how they work at an atomic level. The research is described this week in the journal Science. (Full story)

Single-photon emitter has promise for quantum info-processing

Single-photon emission at room temperature and at
telecommunications wavelengths, LANL illustration.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has produced the first known material capable of single-photon emission at room temperature and at telecommunications wavelengths. These carbon nanotube quantum light emitters may be important for optically-based quantum information processing and information security, while also being of significant interest for ultrasensitive sensing, metrology and imaging needs and as photon sources for fundamental advances in quantum optics studies. The research was reported yesterday in the journal Nature Photonics. (Full story)

Also in PhysOrg

A quantum leap in solar

Hunter McDaniel lights a prototype
window, New Mexican photo.              

McDaniel is founder and president of a Los Alamos-based company that is pioneering a material that can be folded into windows to better focus the light into electricity. He sees the company he founded with help from Los Alamos National Laboratory, UbiQD, as the best path to advance the design of solar windows in urban settings as well as remote greenhouses far off the grid.

LANL researchers have been leading the way in quantum dot research as part of its mission to explore solar energy technology. McDaniel was a big part of that research and incorporated some of the patent technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to advance a low-toxic production of quantum dots, in part with grant money from Sharp Electronics. (Full story)

Los Alamos County, LANL and summer interns partner to test cutting edge technology

UNM’s Fernando Moreu demonstrates a
hololens, Daily Post photo.

Dr. David Mascarenas from the Engineering Institute of LANL has worked with Dr. Moreu and UNM’s students since the fall of 2016 in advancing the application of this technology to real civil engineering applications, such as collecting measurements in the field that informs owners about the condition of their infrastructure.

Hololens, Moreu and Mascarenas explained, is technology that utilizes augmented reality. It creates holograms and allows the user to interact with them. (Full story)